Last Updated: September 4, 2023 by Flora Gibbins
There is more to a guppy aquarium setup than just putting water in a bowl and adding guppies, to ensure that your guppies survive and thrive you should understand their needs.
I will teach you everything you need to know to keep your fish happy and healthy in a guppy tank setup.
- Guppy Tank Stocking
- Tank Size And Water Parameters
- Necessary Equipment
- Setting Up And Maintaining Your Tank
- Guppy Fish Tank Mates
- Watch This!
Guppy Tank Stocking
You have three main options when stocking a guppy tank, there are breeding tanks, single-sex tanks, and community tanks.
If you keep males and females together you will have a breeding tank. You should make sure that there are at least two females per male in any tank that has both. You should also have a plan for what you will do with all the baby guppies because they will quickly overpopulate your tank.
Single-sex guppy tanks are most commonly all males for a display tank, when keeping only male guppies in an aquarium it is recommended to have a group of six or more male guppies to help spread out any aggression.
Guppies are also commonly kept in community tanks with other fish. Guppies can and will breed in a community tank so if you do not want guppy fry you should not combine male and female guppies.
Tank Size And Water Parameters
A ten-gallon tank is the entry point for a fancy guppy tank setup. With a standard 10-gallon, you can do a single male and two females or six males or a nano fish community tank featuring guppies. Depending on how many guppies you want you might need a larger aquarium.
Some guppies are smaller than fancy guppies commonly known as dwarf guppies and Endler’s guppies. A 5-gallon tank is a good starting point for these fish.
Guppies do best in freshwater that is between 74f and 82f with a pH of 6.8 – 7.8 and a total hardness of 8-12 dGH.
You have your tank size and stocking plan in mind so now you must be wondering what do guppies need in their tank and what else do you need to maintain it? The following are the basic equipment needed for a noobie guppy aquarium enthusiast:
Guppies have a fairly high bioload in an aquarium so I recommend using a filter that is double the size of your actual needs. Pretty much any filter will do, as long as you have enough biological filtration to keep the water clean.
I recommend a good three-stage hang-on back or canister filter, especially for beginners. If you have no idea what filter to buy I would recommend the AquaClear fish tank filter, it is a reliable filter with a reasonable price tag.
In a breeding tank, you might want a sponge pre-filter to keep guppy fry from being sucked into the filter. A sponge pre-filter also provides grazing areas and over filtration.
Heater And Thermometer
Guppies do not require anything special; any heater that will keep the water 74f(22c) or higher will be fine. Make sure the heater is large enough for your tank or use two if necessary.
A low-cost and reliable heater that I use is the Tetra Submersible Heater which always keeps the water temperature at 78f. I also recommend buying a thermometer, if your heater fails to engage or disengage you have no way of knowing anything is wrong without a fish tank thermometer.
Endler’s guppies can survive in cold temperatures and can be kept in an unheated tank.
Fun Fact: Although the aforementioned sub-topic mentioned guppies can be kept in an unheated tank, there could be a possibility to use heaters. Find out the reasons here — Do Guppies Need A Heater? We Warm Up On Why They Need One.
Hood And Lights
Your guppy aquarium setup will need lights, guppies will want a consistent day/night cycle and you will need an aquarium light to be able to watch your fish.
If you plan to have live plants, then you should make sure that your lighting is sufficient to keep your plants alive.
A hood or lid is not completely necessary but it will make sure that your guppy fish do not jump out of their tank and die as well as reduce evaporation. Unless you are growing emergent plants I recommend a hood of some kind.
An air stone and air pump add oxygen to the water as well as water movement, this is not always a necessary addition to your aquarium but it helps keep your fish healthy and happy especially if your aquarium is crowded.
Aquarium Siphon And Net
A siphon or vacuum is a tool every aquarist should have, you will use this to vacuum the substrate and for water changes. You should have at least one net if you keep fish, the net is for moving fish into and out of your aquarium.
Hardscaping And Plants
Hardscaping and plants are the majority of enrichment in a fish tank, your fish should have plenty of places to hide and obstacles to chase each other through. With fancy guppies especially be careful not to have any decorations that their fins might get pinched or caught on.
Fish do not like to swim in open water so the more coverage you have the happier the fish will be.
One way of providing enrichment is through live plants, live plants can create a natural cover for the fish that fills the aquarium. This effect is similar to their natural habitat and makes the fish feel safe and helps baby fish survive. It is difficult to achieve this effect through fake plants but if you do not use live plants you should still try to provide as much cover as possible.
Live plants in aquariums also help keep the water clean and add oxygen to the water. I like to have plants in all of my aquariums. Even if you have no substrate there are plenty of plants that can grow floating, attached to hardscaping, and even just sitting on the bottom of your tank.
Setting Up And Maintaining Your Tank
A guppy fish tank setup is fairly straightforward, you can use any substrate for the floor or even no substrate. Arrange your hardscaping and plants(real or fake) and fill your tank with dechlorinated water. Check your water parameters before adding fish and be sure to cycle the tank so your fish don’t die.
If you are using tap water you will need something to remove chlorine and chloramine, I use Seachem Prime for this but any product for removing chlorine will work. This is the only water treatment that is needed in most cases.
If your treated tap water is extremely alkaline you should use a product called Seachem Acid Buffer to reduce the carbonate hardness. Other ph buffers use phosphate to buffer the ph and can be useful in some situations but can be bad for live plants and can lead to algae breakouts.
If you are using RO/DI water you will need to add minerals and vitamins back into the water and reach your target pH and hardness. There are many water additives for this purpose, some with specific livestock in mind. I use Seachem Equilibrium and Boyd Enterprises VitaChem.
Regardless of what water you use, if you are growing plants you should buy aquarium plant fertilizer to keep the necessary nutrients in the water column and when possible, all water treatments and additives should be mixed with water in a bucket or cup before being added to your aquarium.
Nitrogen Cycle And Beneficial Bacteria
The nitrogen cycle is how waste is processed in an aquarium. Organic waste releases toxic ammonia into the water and beneficial bacteria process the ammonia into nitrite and nitrite into nitrate. Nitrate is then removed by plants and water changes, even with plants your guppies tank will likely need regular water changes.
There are several options for cycling an aquarium, some people will leave the fish tank setup for 6 weeks without any fish and put food in the tank daily allowing the food to cause an ammonia spike which will feed the beneficial bacteria.
Another option is to cycle your tank with fish in it, for this option you will want to start with only a couple of fish and add the rest little by little as the tank cycles.
Fish in cycling can benefit from the use of prime or other ammonia detoxifiers, this will help keep your fish healthy while the beneficial bacteria builds up enough to process the ammonia. Guppies are good fish for this type of cycling because they are hardy enough to handle the small amounts of ammonia.
Regardless of how you cycle your tank the process can be sped up with bacteria products, Seachem Stability and Microbacter7 are a couple of the more popular options. This can help you complete the tank cycling process in 24 hours. You can also speed up cycling by adding tank water from an already cycled tank. The fastest way to cycle a tank is to use already cycled filtration media.
Feeding And Cleaning
Overfeeding can cause ammonia spikes and an ugly buildup of food on the bottom so be sure you are not feeding more than your fish will eat in about 3 minutes. You can feed that quantity 1 or 2 times a day. If you do overfeed, be sure to remove the excess food to keep your aquarium looking nice.
Guppies are omnivores and will eat almost any fish food you offer them, for healthy guppies you should offer them tropical fish food as their main food and it is always best for your fish to have a varied diet. They can eat herbivore and carnivore foods and benefit from the ingredients in all of them.
A great form of enrichment for guppy fish is live foods. You can hatch brine shrimp at home very easily or purchase live food at your local fish store. Although not necessary for guppies, live food is a treat they will love that is also good for them.
Cleaning a guppy tank will require gravel vacuuming to remove waste buildups as well as water changes to reduce nitrates, maintenance will be needed anywhere from weekly to monthly depending on many factors, test the nitrates in your tank and if it ever goes above 60ppm do a 10-15% water change.
Guppies are fairly hardy and can handle more nitrate buildup, but it is still best for your fish if you keep the nitrates below 50ppm.
Guppy Fish Tank Mates
Any similarly sized peaceful freshwater fish make good tank mates for guppies, African dwarf frogs, snails, and shrimp all can live with guppies as well. I do not recommend keeping fish with long flowing fins like male betta fish with guppies, I have seen guppies nibble on the fins of betta fish.
Fun Fact: If you’ve reached this part, then we are most certain that you are into this hobby for the long haul! We would like to help you further by providing you with our article, Best Guppy Tank: Top 6 “WOW” Aquariums For Your Gup Buddies to make your choice a lot easier. Tell us what you think afterward.
You should now be confident that you can set up a guppy fish tank. Guppies are hardy fish that can survive even in less than optimal conditions making them a great starting point for fish keeping. As long as you understand the needs of your guppy and don’t overstock your aquarium it should be easy to set up and maintain it.